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Aruncus Offers Unique Beauty in the Garden

Recently the Newsletter from the Somerville Garden Club included an article about Aruncus dioicus or Goat’s Beard.

When I read the article, I thought of this plant in my own garden.  I planted a row of them at the back of the perennial bed over twenty years ago.

This is truly an old-fashioned perennial that was once called Spirea Aruncus.  It loves shade so I chose it for my garden where minimal sunshine appears.

I wondered too what nineteenth century seed companies and nurseries wrote about this plant.

In 1885 Philadelphia nurseryman Thomas Meehan included an article from the weekly English garden journal Gardener’s Chronicle in his magazine called Gardener’s Monthly.  The title of the article was “The Aruncus offers unique beauty in the garden.” I loved the title and made it the title of this post.

The article said, “A grand plant, not by any means so abundant as it should be in our gardens, owing to its very distinct and effective appearance.  Of course there are positions in the garden where it would be out of place, but there are many others to which it would give additional beauty. We have yet much to learn and appreciate in the arrangement of hardy plants.”

Then the author, whose name was simply noted at the end of the artilce by ‘T,’ described the plant. He said, “I may say, for the benefit of those unacquainted with the plant, that it grows from 3 to 4 feet high, with large divided foliage, and immense plumes of white flowers, forming when established most conspicuous objects.  I lately saw several masses 3 and 4 feet in diameter, and as much high, and nothing could surpass their unique beauty.”

A row of Aruncus in bloom takes center stage in my garden in NH.
Recently a back row of Aruncus in bloom took center stage in this perrenial bed in my NH garden.

Because this plant is so big, it is probably better to position it in the back of the perennial bed or border. Garden books often advocate for planting Aruncus in a damp or moist area, but I grow it in dry soil with no problem.

The garden journal called Vick’s Illustrated Monthly Magazine in 1897 said, “Spirea Aruncus is popularly known as the ‘Goats Beard.’ It is a very effective species and one of the best of border plants. It is a native of England, grows from three to four feet in height, and blooms during the months of June and July. The foliage is very handsome, the leaves being of pinnate form and of a light green color. Flowers are a creamy white and borne in large branched panicles.”

The two nineteenth century garden magazines certainly give high praise to this plant.

Aruncus is one of our native plants even though Vick’s magazine said it was native to England.  The American Beauties Native Series offers it for the gardener among its collection of plants.

Aruncus dioicus is an easy plant to grow and does not take over an area.  I like that about it.

No surprise that it deserves a spot in anyone’s shade garden.

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